Mitch Perry Report 10.29.14: Will Mike Fasano's independence hurt him in 2016?

Mike Fasano's outspoken support for his friend and political ally Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial contest is disturbing a few folks up in Pasco County. 

The longtime Republican state legislator left Tallahassee a little over a year ago. That's when he was appointed by Rick Scott to succeed the late Mike Olson as Pasco County tax collector, getting him out of the hair of Scott and other GOP leaders, who were growing perturbed at the native New Yorker''s "mavricky" ways.

In a letter to the editor of this morning's Tampa Tribune, Pasco Republican state committeeman and longtime Fasano foe Bill Bunting writes that Fasano's endorsement of Crist, as well as Democrat Amanda Murphy in his state House 36 race, is simply too much to bear. "People have been coming into the Republican office all week, and our phones are ringing off the hook with people asking how we can get Fasano out of the Republican Party."

Fasano has called himself a "Ronald Reagan Republican," and just because he doesn't march to Bunting's drummer doesn't mean he isn't. For one thing, he and Bunting have always sat in different parts of the "big tent" that Republicans back in the George H.W. Bush era used to boast about. 

But Fasano does sound like his pal Charlie in bemoaning how the current Republican Party isn't what it used to be. And it's not. It's decidedly more conservative (no need to recite all of the things that Reagan himself did as governor of California that might get him booted out of his own party these days). Cynics accuse Crist of only feeling this way once it was evident that the Florida GOP had no room for him, much more turned on by Marco Rubio's brand of conservatism in 2010. Charlie went indie, and then two years ago in Charlotte at the DNC, he completed his metamorphosis and became a full-fledged Democrat. 

Fasano told me last Friday that Republicans should understand that his support for Crist isn't anything new — that he's always been a Charlie guy, supporting him when he ran as an independent four years ago. 

The question will become relevant in 2016 if and when Fasano runs for re-election as tax collector in Pasco. The man is considered a populist who has always looked out for the little guy and has loads of supporters, many of them not nearly as ideological as Bunting or frankly as most folks who might be reading this column. One would think with his track record, he'd be the man to be beat, whether he's running as an "R" or a "D."

In other news...

Fasano was a big critic of Duke Energy, and later today in St. Pete, activists will be gathering in Williams Park to protest the public power utility, which continues to be a pinata for Pinellas County legislators of both parties vying to win election next week. The latest example is Bill Young, son of the late legendary congressman, attempting to oust Democrat Dwight Dudley in HD68 by making the bogus accusation that Dudley actually supported Duke.

Craft beer advocates in the Legislature promise they'll be able to get a clean bill passed next year to remove the ban on 64-ounce growlers. But one Libertarian-oriented law firm isn't ready to wait and see, and filed suit yesterday to overturn that bizarre regulation.

Republicans continue to lead in the early voting totals six days before Election Day in Florida, but Democrats are reducing the percentage level of that lead every day. Yesterday Charlie Crist advisor Steve Schale laid down his thoughts on the early vote to political reporters on a conference call. The bottom line is that Dems are in better shape than they were in 2010 at this time, when Republicans dominated at the polls.

Progressives have been holding "Moral Mondays" in North Carolina over the past couple of years. We've seen a few similar events in Florida this year, with the latest held Monday night in downtown St. Petersburg. CL's Ashley Whitney reports.

And if you missed it, the NY Times has a big spread on how U.S. Attorneys General are now more than ever being pursued by lobbyists and lawyers "who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators." Making an appearance in the piece is Florida's own Pam Bondi.

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